To see a tiger is to love it!
The emotion of seeing an animal in the wild is completely different from seeing it in captivity or in an enclosed sanctuary.
I learnt this when I spotted my first tiger in the wild on a safari at the Bandhavgarh National Park (BNP). It was in 2008 and my husband and a friend joined me post a work trip to Madhya Pradesh (MP – the central state of India), for a visit to BNP.
We arrived in the afternoon at the M P Tourism property there and were lazing post a heavy lunch when the manager suggested the afternoon safari. He said we should do as many as possible if we were keen on spotting the elusive tiger. We agreed excitedly as we’d thought of doing the early morning safari the next morning and had so much time to kill – and thus after quick arrangements of a vehicle and permit we were off. About an hour and half into the safari and after having seen the caves on the little hill inside the forest, plus a tad disappointed, our experienced driver heard a deer call!! And the rest as they say is history and will always be cherished in my memory.
On the edge of our seats we looked about for about 20 minutes before we spotted this beauty – tigress ‘Bandhavi’ in the bushes right next to our vehicle. Completely camouflaged we spotted her only because of the movement of the tall grass there. Refer the featured pic. And what a day it turned out to be thereafter. She kept us company for the rest of the afternoon. After crossing the road ( as in pic 2) she lay on the edge of the grassland for a long while, before walking into the sunset. It’s an image imprinted in all our minds and hearts and we discuss it often – in the dim light of dusk, the orange hue of the setting sun reflected on the golden grass of the forest as the tigress walked in slowly and gracefully getting lost in the bushes – only her swishing tail seen for a while. We stood there for a few more minutes and sighing deeply returned back to the hotel – a long standing wish fulfilled with happiness in our hearts.
My love for tigers blossomed that day and I eagerly read up everything about them. Jim Corbett remains a favorite author and his books give an insight into the intelligent minds and lives of this superb animal.
We went on many safaris to see tigers in Pench and Kanha and Tadoba national parks in the following years but the first experience remains most cherished and etched in my memory.
In the later safaris, I didn’t see the elusive tiger many a times and while it did leave me disappointed, I came to appreciate just the beauty of these dense forests and the many flora and fauna inside.
In India with almost 70-80% of the world’s tiger population, we have the benefit and responsibility of protecting these majestic animals from extinction. Our future generations should be able to see them roam free in the wild and marvel at nature’s beauty.
Take my word for it – Make your next holiday a tiger safari holiday, you’ll come back a changed person.
Pic 1 & pic 2 in Bandhavgarh national park.
Pic 3 – Jim Corbett National park